Monday, October 10, 2005

Defining Kosovo by Tim Judah

With talks on the disputed UN-administered Serbian province of Kosovo poised to begin in December, all sides are hedging their bets - Belgrade to maintain its sovereignty over the province as possible and Pristina to win nothing short of full independence - while observers worry of rising tensions that could lead to more bloodshed.

By Tim Judah for ISN Security Watch (10/10/05)

Talks on Kosovo’s status will, more than likely, begin in December and move to some sort of climax possibly as early as next spring. However, as one of the most senior diplomats involved in the Kosovo issue has told ISN Security Watch, “turbulence can be expected”.

After six years under UN jurisdiction it is safe to say that the disputed province is now moving towards a new chapter in its history, but it remains unclear what the outcome of the talks will be.

The disputed province

Kosovo’s future status is bitterly disputed between Serbs and Albanians. Of its 2 million people, more than 90 per cent are ethnic Albanians who have consistently demanded independence. The Serbian government’s current policy is “more than autonomy but less than independence”.

While the province enjoyed relative autonomy under the Yugoslav Communist government in the 1970s, the 1980s were characterized by rising ethnic tensions, with both Serbs and Albanians complaining of discrimination. In August 1987, as the Communist regime was taking its final breath, rising Serbian politician Slobodan Milosevic visited the province, setting the stage for what was to become a bloody conflict. In 1989, Milosevic stripped Kosovo of its autonomy. Mass unrest and the slaughter and forced removal of Kosovo Albanians ensued during the war of 1998-1999.

Since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, after NATO’s military action against Serbs, the province has been under the jurisdiction of the UN, although technically sovereignty has remained with Serbia.

In the months that followed NATO’s military action in 1999, large numbers of Kosovo Serbs fled the province to Serbia. The minority that decided to stay have since lived in enclaves, some of them guarded by international forces. Serbian Orthodox religious sites and institutions have been under the constant threat of attack by Albanians since then.

Lessening the blow to Serbia

The decision to begin talks in December comes days after the EU agreed to begin talks with Serbia on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step towards EU membership for western Balkan nations. Diplomats have told ISN Security Watch that they decided not to let the outstanding issue of Ratko Mladic - the fugitive wartime Bosnian Serb army general wanted by the UN’s war crimes tribunal in The Hague - stand in the way of those talks.

Instead, they are hoping that the good news of the conclusion of an SAA agreement next year may help counteract the simultaneous bad news of the final loss of Kosovo and the secession of Montenegro from the state union with Serbia.

On 7 October, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote to the UN Security Council recommending that long awaited talks on the province’s future begin soon.

Annan’s recommendation was made in a letter, which accompanied a report on the situation in the province made for him by Kai Eide, Norway’s ambassador to NATO.

In the document, Eide said progress in implementing a series of standards devised by the UN, which cover everything from free elections to minority rights, was “uneven” but pointed out that “there will not be any good moment for addressing Kosovo’s future status…nevertheless an overall assessment leads to the conclusion that the time has come to commence this process”.

Annan said he would initiate preparations for the appointment of a special envoy to lead the future status process - preparations that are already advanced - and it is widely expected that former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who has considerable Balkan experience, will be chosen for the job.

The UN Security Council is now scheduled to meet on 18 December to discuss Kosovo.

According to diplomatic sources, the UN envoy will have three deputies: one from the US, one from the EU, and one from Russia.

The next phase

Following a series of interviews with ISN Security Watch over the last few weeks in London, Belgrade, and the Kosovo capital of Pristina, it is possible to envisage the talks scenario, at least for the next few months. Most of those who talked to ISN Security Watch on this topic did so on condition of anonymity.

Security Watch sources believe that the person chosen to head the talks, along with his deputies, will initiate a period of shuttle diplomacy in December.

The initial round of talks will not be face to face, but it is possible that working groups could be set up to look at several specific issues. After a period of intensive shuttling, the envoy may then withdraw with his team to compose an initial draft agreement on Kosovo.

Once this draft is completed, it is expected that Serbian and Albanian negotiators could be summoned to meet, rather like the failed 1999 talks at Rambouillet outside Paris.

Austria takes over the EU presidency from Britain at the beginning of next year and diplomats have suggested that Vienna should be used by the UN Kosovo envoy as a base.

That remains to be seen but, what is conceivable says Veton Surroi, the Kosovo Albanian publisher, opposition leader, and member of the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team, is that the face-to-face discussions begin in “let us say, a castle in Austria in May”.

One very senior diplomat outlined a scenario in which he expected the Serbian delegation would fight extremely hard to make sure that all the safeguards they want for Kosovo’s Serbs and the Orthodox Churches and monasteries were securely in the final document.

In this, they will have been given a boost by the fact that Eide has already recommended much of what they say they want.

For example, he has suggested an extensive decentralization plan in which Kosovo Serbs would be given competences “in areas such as police, justice, education, culture, media, and the economy”. He has also recommended that “protective space” should be created around Serbian Orthodox religious sites and institutions and that ways should be found to place them “under a form of international protection”.

The fact that the Serbian side may well succeed in getting much of what it wants in terms of the internal organization of Kosovo does not of course mean it will succeed in getting what it wants in terms of the broader picture.

Serbian government policy, as outlined by Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, the head of Serbia’s Coordination Center for Kosovo, is that Kosovo can have judicial, executive, and legislative autonomy, but that sovereignty must remain with Serbia.

In the scenario outlined for ISN Security Watch, what may happen is that after Serbia has succeeded in packing the draft agreement with all the safeguards it seeks and in having its interests acknowledged in certain areas, the Serbian delegation may then refuse to endorse the plan because it also points the way to Kosovo’s independence at a sooner or later date.

Reluctantly, perhaps the Albanians then would be compelled to accept more in terms of Serbian rights in Kosovo than they would have done otherwise, but they would accept this under international pressure as the high price of independence.

Serbia’s leaders, none of whom want to take responsibility for losing Kosovo, can also say that, at this point and having fought as hard as possible, Kosovo was taken away from Serbia but not with Belgrade’s consent.

Defining independence

The question now arises as to what form of independence Kosovo will have, and at what stage. Significantly, the Eide report never uses the phrase “final status”, as opposed to “future status”, and the last lines of the report leave the door open for several options.

While arguing that “the international community must do the utmost to ensure that whatever the status becomes, it does not become a ‘failed status’”, it also says: “Entering the future status process does not mean the last stage, but the next stage of the international presence.”

Although Eide was not asked to comment on the question of ultimate sovereignty he does make various suggestions that broadly chime with mainstream diplomatic opinion about the fate of Kosovo. That is that there should be a follow-up mission to KFOR, the current NATO-led force there, that at least some US troops should remain, and that the EU take on a role in the police sphere at the very least.

Certain elements of the Bosnian model look set to be borrowed, too: for example, the installation of a High Representative with considerable powers, if not across the board, then in the field of inter-ethnic relations. In this sense, the independence that many diplomats and analysts are assuming Kosovo will get will be “conditional”.

It may well be that the document of reference to consult now is the International Commission on the Balkans of last April, which outlines a four-stage transition to full independence over an unspecified period culminating in Kosovo joining the EU.

Belgrade sobering up

Although conditional independence does indeed look likely for Kosovo, its Albanian leaders - who have done little so far to prepare for talks and seemingly have been lulled into a false sense of security by such a widespread assumption - are perhaps more concerned with their place in history than the tough negotiations ahead.

In this they have underestimated the sobering-up that has taken place in Belgrade in the last few months. Although it is true that for the moment it is unclear who will have the last word in Belgrade on what can or cannot be agreed, it is clear that there is now a far more realistic idea of what might be achieved in Kosovo than there was several months ago.

For example, experienced diplomats with a deep knowledge of Kosovo, such as Dusan Batakovic, who currently advises Serbian President Boris Tadic, are now gaming various scenarios for talks and preparing positions.

This does not mean that the Serbian side can stave off the ending of their sovereignty over Kosovo, but it does mean that Serbia stands a better chance of doing so than it did before. One (reserve) aim may well be to see whether the issue of sovereignty can be left open or at least left extremely unclear for the foreseeable future.

Such an option would be unacceptable to the Kosovo Albanians, whose negotiators will be looking over their shoulders at developments back home. In this context, the “joker” in the pack is Albin Kurti, a 30-year old former student leader and political prisoner.

Studying the techniques of the young people who organized the overthrow of their former regimes in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine, Kurti is currently organizing people in a bid to ready them to come out onto the streets to protest against the future talks.

His argument is that talks aim at compromise and that there can be no compromise on Kosovo’s independence. In other words, negotiations can only take place when Kosovo is independent and thus an equal of Serbia.

His slogan - “No Negotiations! Self Determination!” - is already plastered all over Pristina, but his strength is as yet untested. If, however, at a crucial point in talks, one of the Albanian parties - for example, the Democratic Party of Kosovo of former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci - decides to swing his support behind Kurti then the outcome of talks, especially if a wave of anti-Serbian ethnic cleansing similar to that of March 2004 also breaks out again, cannot be predicted.


Tim Judah is a senior international correspondent for ISN Security Watch. He is also the author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia and Kosovo: War and Revenge, both published by Yale University Press.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

A fine analysis. I liked the sentence "Although conditional independence does indeed look likely for Kosovo, its Albanian leaders - who have done little so far to prepare for talks and seemingly have been lulled into a false sense of security by such a widespread assumption - are perhaps more concerned with their place in history than the tough negotiations ahead", which seems to be true.
In sooth there is one moment that require specific attention: INDIPENDENCE has no alternative.
Even if our politicians are unprepared, we will bring freedom and democracy on our own.

Anonymous said...

...another Nagorno Karabahk in the making...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gvozdev, is that you?

Anonymous said...

Don’t be silly. You, Serbs, can contribute to resolve the problem [avoid a "Nagorno Karabakh in the making"] by understanding the reality and giving up from your expansionist aspirations. Because, as far as "security" concerns, Belgrade doesn’t give a S... about Serbian population in Kosova. It is all about territory!
By the way, we, Kosovar Albanians, are far more willing to cooperate, to integrate and to improve the QUALITY OF LIFE of Kosovar Serbs that you are. Just that Belgrade manipulates them and uses incriminated individuals/groups to destabilize the situation in here…

Anonymous said...

It is very telling that if someone here posts something that is not pro-albanian, they must be a Serb.
What a biased and myopic point of view. Many nations in this world do not think that an independent Kosovo is a good idea. The Serbs are not alone in their thinking.
After 6 long years, Kosovar Albanians are no longer 'the victims' but those who have victimized. You don't have the support for your independence drive that you think you do and your know it. Hence; the frustration in your posts. Understandable. You have earned your frustration by your own actions as the majority in Kosovo since 1999.

Anonymous said...

"we, Kosovar Albanians, are far more willing to cooperate, to integrate and to improve the QUALITY OF LIFE of Kosovar Serbs that you are."

right, that's what March 17th 2004 was all about right? No one trusts a majority muslim nation these days, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia. You all are lying shits.

Anonymous said...

the Serbs - let me rephrase it - those who support the Belgrade's stance on Kosovo are PATHETIC!

Anonymous said...

Very good analysis of the situation of Kosova. The approach of Tim Judah is more of a political view which always swings in favour of Serbs.

Let me offer you a more realistic analysis on the future events. Independence will not be achieved by peacefull means I can almost guarantee that. Serbs have the extremists as well as albanians do. Serbia now has more support, Russia (obviously) China, EU (albanians have to remeber that it is the same Europe that betrayed them in Berlin Treaty) and mostly of their neighbours such as Romania Bulgaria, Greece etc so there isnt much pressure for serbia to give Kosova up. As the last person to comment addressed the religious issue that has to be taken very seriously indeed. Serbia is going to play the religous issue card(Al-Qaeda in Kosovo articles are already circuling on the net)
Remember this is more of nationality issue. Politics and Religion has always been divided in albanian side. When they see the pressure is on them too much the will choose religion. Remember albanian ruled the Ottomon empire militarily and also with the brave leader that faught for religion. Religion will make albanians Stronger, there is attempts from some organistation to promote christanity and atheism in Kosova and they are failing misrebly .

My final word is that it will probably turn into a religious war what nobody wants. But will work in Serbia's favour because it will have Unites States in support. Thats all you need Russia US and china who cares about the rest now a days. But remeber Bosnia is not completely stable, bring religion into it it will spark a conflict in Bosnia Macedonia most probably and maybe Greece and Montenegro
That is the reality post 9/11 world go agaisnt muslims you will have the support, but remember Kosova will be the place where it will be the place where war on 'terrorism' will be declared as clash of civilasaions

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous Nr 5 (like Chanel N5 or Mambo Nr5 -:))

If this should be the case, -- that there is a pro-Serb talking instead of a Serb, -- then we have to worry. About the image. Because, as a person that offers, with such a “generosity" I’d add, a prejudice you should know that publicly and privately, civic and political society in Kosova/o have strongly depreciated any act of violence of ethnic background. Under those circumstances you can barely talk about responsibility in moral terms. What we are missing here, -- and I swear we all suffer from it, without discrimination, -- is the rule of law [and the poverty]. Now don’t tell me that Albanians are to be blamed. The justice system is entirely an international undertaking; the police system also, to a large extent. If for some reasons something happen to my family (I hope nothing will happen), there is no way to address the problem or to demand justice. This is more than sad…
Do you think that is easy for us? You better forget for a moment the commodity of your perfect life and stretch the imagination to understand different realities. And keep imagine what could happen to your country under the same circumstances….or to United States and the famous “melting pot”….
I wish you dear non-pro-Albanian realize that the biggest problem in Kosova/o is the nature of the system in place. In this sense, the independence is, metaphorically speaking, a big-ban. The life begins short after it….

Anonymous said...

Well, I do not believe a religious war scenario. It seems likely a conspiracy theory. Or very much "Huntington". But I respect the seriosity of the scribe. Now it is really becoming a forum of ideas!

Proud to be Albanian said...

get lost pro-Serbian; you have a preconceived mean idea and merely pave a path to it

Anonymous said...

Mr. Judah is hawking his book. He needs the income. Who in the hell cares what he has to say? He is motivated by money...just like the albanian mafia and the albanian politicians and the NGO's. Kosova is doomed to hell.

Anonymous said...

It already is a religious thing. Kosova albanians are mostly muslim. They have an extremist fringe in their midst.
They are a violent group. They won't stand up to the murderers and drug dealers in their midst. They are not to be trusted. Since 9/11---they are not to be believed at all.

Anonymous said...

Seriosity of the scribe? For Pete's sake, that was Martyr. Remember him? Our hilarious Serb visitor who pretends to be the dude who just buried his father in North Carolina last month, has mid-level UNMIK sources, and isn't really sure (grammatically and vocabulary speaking) whether he is from Britain or Texas.

Serbianna and Antiwar propaganda is far from a threat. All the Clinton's guys are coming to the front now, and they are Jewish believe it or not.

Here's a racist joke Milovan Djilas' son told. A son of a Jewish father and a Serb mother goes to father and asks, "Dad, am I Serb or Jewish." Father says you're Jewish. Mother says you're Serb. Why do you ask, they ask. Because this friend is trying to sell me a bike and I didn't know if I should bargain or just beat him up and take it for nothing.

Anonymous said...

you stick to your version of reality. Kosova is doomed entity thanks to the albanian penchance for vengeance/blood. You can whine all you want. It matters not. Actually, keep whining. It is rather entertaining in a sad kind of way. The rest of us can watch your subsequent generations squirm under the boot of occupation.Nothing new for albanins, right? It is what you earn with your lack of cilvility.

Anonymous said...

Lack of civility and that's coming from a Serb.

Here's what civilized Serbs do.

"More described a hellish scene as the hospital was cleared. Serb soldiers took a pregnant woman and shot her in the vagina, killing her and her unborn baby. More than half of 195 bodies later exhumed from a mass grave had been patients killed by gunshot. Prosecutors say the bodies of 64 are still missing."

Anonymous said...

lies just like the muslim lies of jenin. no one believes muslims anymore.

Anonymous said...

I don' believe muslim reports anymore. Not since 9/11. Kosovo is a muslim majority place. I don't trust them.

Anonymous said...

As always when Serbs are facing the truth they resort to spiteful religious comment. The extract above comes from Croatians who by the way are christians. Let me guess you don't trust Catholics also.

Anonymous said...

I don`t know if Serbs posting comments in this site represent the typical model of the Serb, but from what I see, they reflect a disturbing ignorance. You guys sound shallows, superficial, extremely aggressive. All your strategy is focused on what you think is the flat of Albanians: the fact that the majority of them are Muslims. And what then? This is your vision for the World: a religious war among Christians and Muslims? Who do you think will benefit of it? It’s a loss-loss strategy, as Umberto Echo stresses in one of his analysis. But there is nothing to wonder. You have catalyzed two wars: the First World War and the Second World War, and you have fought a terrible war in former Yugoslavia, for 9 entire years.
You are completely sick! You need a collective therapy! What a curse to be a neighbor of yours…

From Croatia with love!

Anonymous said...

I think your long lost lovers the nazi's had something to do with WWII.

Anonymous said...

I can’t help but participate here because no Albanian is defending the fact that Albanians are more atheist than any people in the world. Deep down Albanians know that any religion that has roots in the Middle East was imported to destroy the old pallasgian culture and civilization together with Paganism. Albanians could care less for middle-eastern culture; they change religions as often as they want because nothing foreign has an effect on them. It is not organic and it is not produced locally and thus it is viewed with skepticism. As far as the Serbs go, I would have to say that fundamentalism lives with them, the church is the institution that shapes the Serbian brain, unlike the Albanian, he does not allow anyone to shape his brain and let alone the church or the mosque. It is unbelievable that the serbs have lived next to Albanians for so long and yet have not learned anything about their neighbors. It’s like living next door to your neighbor and not knowing what color his house is. Ignorant, completely ignorant.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter how religious the albanians are as long as a few of them accept money from the islamic fundementalist like the saudi's and osama bin ladin, the US and Western Europe will remain skeptical.

Anonymous said...

Who tolld you that about Albanians? One of you friends in the network you trade with?
It is well known, to everyone, the long-time already the "love affair" of Serbs with terrorism, translated into banal cooperations such as sale of arms and materials of mass destruction...

Anonymous said...

“It is no up to the US or any other country to say what the status of Kosovo will be. Therefore, my country doesn’t support any specific option. This should be the responsibility of the people living here, but also the responsibility of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Therefore, we hope that in 30 days we will see the start of status talks and people will start talking to each other about the best ways for moving forward,” Burns was quoted as saying.

"but also the responsibility of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro."

This Passage from Mr. Burns' comment in Pristina is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Some are here to talk about their fundamentamist feelings but are missing the big picture. Kosova will be independant and the only way to achieve that is to live together as one nationality: KOSOVARS. No matter of their Serbs ,Gipsy's,Turks or even nowadays black and chinese. And let me tell you that the albanians won't have any problem what so ever with living with other ethnic groups as long as they're not occupied.

Josh said...

As the article said "under UN jurisdiction it is safe to say that the disputed province is now moving towards a new chapter in its history". I'm totally agree with that point. Generic Viagra

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has read Mr. Judah's book will know that he does not take sides. He shows proof that the people in charge of Kosovo, whether Albanian or Serbian, committed attrocities on the other side. Not only that, but Albania achieved such a powerful majority of population through the expulsion of Serbs, both killing and relocating, in addition to extraordinarily high birth rates which are now taking their toll on Kosovo society. Before the Ottoman Empire conquered Kosovo in the 1500s it was the heart of Serbian region, both economically and religiously. Regardless, independence is 100% out of the question as the people have no means to provide for themselves or organize themselves into an honest government. Kosovo is the poorest country in all of Europe and it stems from a lack of leadership and an unquenchible thirst for blood at the top both Albanian and Serbian. And also, slightly, a European bias against Albanians, Turks and other European Muslims.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention Albanian politicians still calling for bloodshed of Serbs, as if they did not learn last time. I am not Serb and certainly not Albanian, but I do come from Macedonia and have an interest in the matter. The first post on this discussion ends with, "INDEPENDENCE has no alternative. Even if our politicians are unprepared, we will bring freedom and democracy on our own" Much echoing Albanian thinking, not only are the politicians unprepared but the people are too. They want independence but do not know how to govern themselves. Albanian people, and Muslim people in general, tend to be tribal in nature making them extremely hard to control and dangerous especially with a minority number of Serbs and other Christians. History will once again repeat itself..